Yesterday we asked Crikey’s readers to let us know what they would do with the $43 billion set aside for the National Broadband Network. As usual they didn’t disappoint…

Anon E Mouse writes: What could you buy with $43b?

  • Rupert Murdoch, several times.
  • A few small (and not so small) nations.
  • Most of the p-rn in Fyshwick.
  • All the water in the Murray.
  • A hole in the budget. Oh, wait, we’ve got one of those.
  • A round trip to Mars, and the rocket that takes you.

Cam Smith writes: $43b could buy around 430 billion green frogs, or around 430 billion red frogs, or even approximately 215 billion green frogs and 215 billion red frogs if you feel like mixing things up a bit.

Edward Stratton-Smith writes: New public schools across the country. You could easily afford 100 amazing new schools and still have change. Tram and train systems in every State capital. Significant upgrades to hospitals. Or $43b worth of faster access to illegal music and movie downloads.

Glen Frost writes: $43 billion would fund a 99% renewable energy network (a mix of solar, wind, wave etc) for Australia, give Australia energy independence and cut our current account cash outflow by 8% a year, would probably generate more jobs and exports than any other category; although I do like the FTTH proposal too.

Jim Hart writes: Things we could do with $43b instead of faster YouTube downloads? Well of course some people would rather spend it on boring stuff like schools and hospitals, but that’s not very visionary is it? Not when we could be tackling really important issues such as:

  • Infrastructure — 50 Frankston bypasses
  • Defence — half a squadron of joint strike fighters (not including spare parts)
  • The environment — a 2kW solar power system on 2 million houses — maybe 3 million since there ought to be a discount for buying in bulk
  • The GFC (Australian branch) — a $2000 economy stimulus payment for every man woman and child.

John G writes: How about a water pipeline from Queensland to NSW and Victoria? We will have faster Internet and die from thirst in the Southern States. High speed broadband will not be used by much of the population in Australia. I hear the cost will be prohibitive for many people. How about running a poll as to how many people want 100 mbs high speed broadband AND can afford it?

John Goldbaum writes: $43 billion would buy Telstra. So the best plan would be for the government to make a take-over offer for all of Telstra’s shares at a premium which would leave out-of-pocket mum-and-dad investors less pissed off with the government and then Telstra (now 100% government owned) can borrow and build the monopoly network of the 21st century and charge whatever the market will bear.

John Robinson writes: By my arithmetic, the government could give every secondary school teacher a $40,000pa salary increase for 10 years. I am sure that well motivated teachers, in an industry which the bright graduates clamour to get into would have a much more profound influence on our kids and the nation’s future than their bit-torrent running a little faster.

In reality, like many great telecom projects that have gone before (NSW Government Network, Nextgen …); this one doesn’t have good prospects. Reality is an early casualty in the hands of a multinational telecom salesman in sight of wads of government money.

Are we really silly enough to spend $43B to wait “faster” for our URLs to be resolved in California?

John T writes: Inter-city very fast trains. Save the planet and screw Qantas instead of Telstra.

Mary-Ann van Ballekom writes: Broadband, shmoardband. The safe ambient operating temperature for my computer is 27 degrees. I’m sure it also says something in the manual about not using it while your feet are submerged in Antarctic ice melt. Did someone forget about climate change? Or peak oil?

Penny … Peter … where are you?

Peter Walters writes: A lot of fast trains. A lot of quality mental health care.

Phillip Starkins writes: What could $43 billion buy?

Australian industries:

  • Local beer on special ($40 per case): 1.075 billion cases of drunken havoc
  • Small to medium tattoo ($150p/h): Just shy of 287 million — nearly everyone in the United States
  • Hours with a prostitute ($250 p/hr): 172 million hours of fun lovin’
  • Big Australian made cars ($39,999 on road): 1.110 million Falcodores

Lateral thinking:

  • 17.2 billion bottles of water from the 711 shop down the road (Multiplier effect: then take an Australian camping holiday and pour your bottled water into the Murray-Darling system to assist with the drought.)
  • 14.333 billion jars of imported bottled anchovies (can feed the starving Small Penguins at Philip Island, thus also saving tourism to the island)
  • 28,666 thousand rounds of golf from Tiger Woods (Victorian Government paid appearance fee for Tiger to come to the Masters Golf tournament in November — many millions of tourism dollars)

Something a bit contentious:

  • Approx. 28 x 1000Mwh nuclear power plants, enough for half of Australia’s current electricity demand (**Very rubbery figures**)
  • Around 717 million cases of alcopop — thank you Mr Fielding, it would have been much less
  • 1.228 billion kilos of Prime Cut Whale meat (about 7.1 million blue whales — we may have a supply issue)

And something to consider…

  • 165,384 years service from our current PM (@260k p/annum), NOT including super and other costs.

Tim writes: Probably wouldn’t cost half that amount but put a grid interactive solar panels and solar water heaters on every house in the country. And with whatever is left spend on world class public transport/ cycling and walking infrastructure in major cities.

Tim Marsh writes: Not costed, but:

  • Micro and non-microloans to businesses in the form of a tax credit or otherwise to hire workers right now — you get to whack the money straight into capital investment or R&D (this was originally in ClimateProgress)
  • Greentech VC fund a la Virgin’s green fund (I personally am in this space with ideas and need some capital to get some prototypes made, I’d only need 100k)
  • Greentech implementation (not R&D) — Solar thermal, photovoltaics, geo etc etc
  • I still think some sort of NBN is warranted, with structural separation of Telstra
  • Remove subsidies on zombie industry (cars) and use the money to retrain people in greentech etc etc – capitalism will allow capital to flow to efficient points then rehire people
  • PUBLIC TRANSPORT — ring rail in Melbourne etc etc

The list goes on

I still think that the Aus Investment Bonds are a great idea, set them up with fixed yield backed by AAA — investment returns are tax free, inputs can be S/Sacrificed tax free or net tax investments — I’ll bet super funds, hedges, private capital will jump at it. SMSFs too.

Sure glad I am a telco engineer right now.

Wayne Gibbings writes: 29,251.7 Andrew Symonds’s.

What would you do with the money? Email [email protected] with what you could buy with $43b and put “$43b” in the subject field.

Peter Fray

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